Kannah Creek

Rating: 
One-way Distance: 9.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate +
Elevation: 6107 - 9878 feet
Cellphone: 0-1 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Carson Lake
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, wild berries, blue grouse




The Kannah Creek trail is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail stretches just over 9 miles with an elevation change of approximately 3770 feet through an area called the Kannah Creek Basin on the western flanks of the Grand Mesa. The lower end of the trail is at the City Intake trailhead and the upper end is near Carson Lake. This post begins at the Carson Lake trailhead and follows the Kannah Creek trail from there to the City Intake traveling one-way in the downhill direction.


To get to the Carson Lake trailhead drive to the junction of Highway 65 and the Lands End Road on the Grand Mesa. Turn west on the Lands End Road and follow it for just over 3 miles to the Carson Lake Road #108. It is just under a mile and a half from here to the Carson Lake parking area. Carson Lake has a few primitive campsites and a fairly new vault toilet. For this hike we made use of 2 vehicles leaving one at the City Intake trailhead at the bottom of the mountain and driving the other to the Carson Lake trailhead. An alternate, and shorter, driving route would be to take the Lands End Road up the mountain but on this day they were running the annual Lands End Hill Climb so the road was closed.


From the trailhead follow the Carson Lake trail across the dam. Carson Lake was originally a smaller natural lake. The City of Grand Junction built the dam in 1946 to increase its storage capacity.


As soon as you get across the dam stay to the right where you will find the beginning of the Kannah Creek trail.


The wildflowers around the upper portion of the trail are incredible. If all you are interested in is a nice short hike you can't go wrong with just exploring the first mile of the trail. Be advised though that the mosquitoes can be ferocious here early in the summer. They usually begin dying off around the middle of August but don't wait too long or the wildflowers will be dying off also. We almost always wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when hiking on the Grand Mesa so all we have to use repellent on is our hands and face.


The trail begins descending the upper portion of the Kannah Creek Basin down an area that was once called the Hog Chute. About 1 mile from the trailhead you will pass the remains of quite a historic cabin. This place really does merit a kiosk to preserve its memory for passers by. If my research is accurate then this would be the location of Sullivan's Camp which was a "meeting place for riding under the rim". (Riding Old Trails - James Curtis pg. 257)


The trail passes through a pole fence at almost 1.6 miles into the hike. From there most of the pine and spruce trees get left behind as the trail descends through groves of aspen.


At around 2.75 miles there are a few open flat areas that would be good for camping. There are quite a few bears in the basin so be sure to camp accordingly and don't keep any food items or anything like toothpaste in your tent with you. The Farmers trail joins the Kannah Creek trail at around 3.25 miles and less than a tenth of a mile more is the junction of the upper end of the Spring Camp trail.


As you come down the trail you will hike through mile after mile of serviceberries. The berries at the higher elevations don't ripen until August but the lower elevation berries are plenty ripe by the middle of July. Serviceberries are good trail snacks and they are also good on salads, in pies, or made into jam. There isn't much difference between the flavor of a serviceberry and that of a blueberry.


At about 3.6 miles the trail crosses Sheep Creek which has its source at the Flowing Park Reservoir on top of the mesa. On this trip I managed to cross without getting wet but on one occasion I fell in and one of my cameras and GPS became totally submerged. For this crossing I took the time to find a walking stick to make it easier to keep my balance. The Kannah Creek trail crosses numerous streams and creeks including Cottonwood Creek at almost 4.7 miles, Service Creek at 6.44 miles and both East Two Creek and West Two Creek around 7.5 miles. There is an uphill section of trail right after crossing Cottonwood Creek where you actually regain about 100 feet of elevation.


Eventually the aspen trees give way to gamble oaks and other bushes.


Much of the lower section of the trail has received a lot of maintenance recently by being rerouted through the pinyon and juniper trees. The original trail was just a little too straight which allowed the runoff to gouge out the ground leaving very rocky ruts. The new route is much easier to hike.


One particular area has a good amount of wild grapes that were growing in abundance.


You may also notice a few pincherry trees. By now you can probably imagine why the Utes and their predecessors found the area so appealing.


Near the lower end of the trail the route crosses and then follows a creek. At around 8 miles the trail crosses the Forest Service boundary onto BLM land. Pay close attention to the trail signs so you can stay on the correct route.


On this day they were running the Grand Mesa 100 cross country race and there were aid stations set up at both trailheads. The Kannah Creek trail serves as one leg of the race. There are also mountain bikers that like riding down the trail. The brush encroaches on the trail quite a bit in places so be prepared for that. The Kannah Creek trail has been one of the main routes between the valley and the top of the mesa for hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.